The Connecticut Labor Department shut down 23 nail salons after surprise inspections revealed that the parlors were violating wage laws.
Two of the salons passed the random inspection, but the others were shut down after the report showed employers were paying their workers under the table in cash in order to evade paying taxes like Social Security and unemployment. Many of the 23 salons shut down were also guilty of not paying their workers the state’s minimum wage of $9.15 an hour — tied for the third highest minimum wage with Vermont, behind Washington and Oregon.
At one salon, the employees earned just $40 for a 10-hour shift, shafting them of overtime pay to add insult to injury. Tips could have potentially pushed those workers’ wages over the state’s minimum wage, but in Connecticut only restaurants and bars are allowed to have tips compensate for smaller hourly wages.
Following the department’s rampage of shutdowns, it is demanding the salons pay at least $62,000 in back wages to more than 50 workers who were underpaid. On top of that, they’ll be required to pay $130,000 in combined civil penalties for underreporting payroll, instituting improper workers’ compensation, and violating wage and hour laws.
The random inspections were influenced by a New York Times investigative article that shed light on the unsatisfactory paying conditions in nail salons. Connecticut residents and workers inspired by the article urged their own state to investigate the conditions of salons in their own backyard.
New York has seen quick changes since the story publicized the truths of how neglectful salons were to their employees. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo employed a task force to conduct nail salon inspections, which has since inspected more than 750 salons and issued just a hair under 1,800 violations. Cuomo also pushed for legislation to give the state more authority to shut down nail salons.
Unfortunately for workers owed mass amounts of money from these nail salons that have been forced to shut down, the parlors often hide their assets after their foreclosure. Cuomo, combatting the issue, introduced a new rule which requires salon owners to secure wage bonds to pay for any potential future legal misdoings.
The task force doesn’t stop with just nail salons; Cuomo is also busting down doors in 13 other low-wage industries like restaurants, retail, farms, construction and car washes. Connecticut will likely look to its neighboring state as an example of how to handle wage theft and employee mistreatment in such a popular industry.
Image credit: Flickr/Karol Franks
Based in Washington, DC, Grant works as a program assistant at SEEP Network, an international development nonprofit. A proud graduate of the University of Maryland, Grant spent four months post-grad living in Armenia where he worked for Habitat for Humanity and the World Food Programme. Grant is passionate about humanitarianism and finding sustainable approaches to international development. He enjoys playing trivia with friends but is still seeking his first victory - he ceaselessly blames his friends lack of preparation.